This portrait has been a labor of love and it turned out badass if I may say so myself. Zak and I put about two months into learning this lighting technique and we fine-tuned it in the studio over six sessions. Thanks to Kenneth Jarrecke for challenging us to master this light. Thanks to all of the people that posed during test sessions, we will drop those portraits here on the blog as they are ready. Thanks to Zak for putting in hours and expertise on this. We’re going to keep pushing and raising the bar for portraits and headshots in Billings Montana.
Tips for photographers:
This photo was inspired by the portraiture of Marco Grob, after Kenneth Jarrecke showed me some of Grob’s work on twitter and sort of challenged me to light like Grob. Specifically this photo is inspired by a portrait that Grob made of Robert Downey Jr., because a lot of people say Zak looks like him. After a lot of hours studying Grob’s work, what we learned was more than just a lighting setup, it is a framework for working with the light that can be versatile. The idea is to add shadows to the highlight side of a Rembrandt, closed loop lighting pattern. Using a black piece of foam core as a flag, we put a shadow on the highlight side of the face, camera right in this case. You can also add a flag above to put a shadow across the forehead as well, something I wish we had done. It sounds very simple, one light, one or two flags to add shadows, and you can add kicker lights on the back side as we’ve done here too. But the trickiness comes in with the main light and the flag, and how close and at what angle to use the flag to add shadow right where you want it. The further the flag is from the light, the harder the shadow will be. You can also change the shadows by moving the main closer or farther from the subject. We prefer bringing the main light very close so that there is a dramatic falloff on the shadow side the highlights are very soft from the close light. For this photo we used a large, 7x1 foot strip box about two feet from Zak’s face. We used a pair of beauty dishes behind and on each side of the subject at 45 degree angles to create the edge lighting (also called rim lighting or backlighting). But the portrait looks cool without those extra lights and you can use reflectors instead of beauty dishes for a more subtle edge (click here to see a portrait without kicker lights, also inspired by Grob). Once you understand the basic framework it’s easy to experiment from there and adjust for the specific subject in front of you.